Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus got the changes he wanted, but he should be careful what he wishes for.
The Republican National Committee voted to make big changes to their presidential nominating contest for 2016. While the changes will help avoid some of the pitfalls that they hit in 2012, it also makes it more likely that they will nominate a far-right crazy in 2016.
Change 1: The Republican Convention Will Be Moved Up To Somewhere Between June 27 and July 18
In 2012, Mitt Romney ran out of money to spend on the primaries, but was legally prevented from using his general election money until he was officially nominated on September 1st. Raising and spending money is maybe two thirds of politics (which needs to change), and this change addresses that. Also, the earlier convention will mean an earlier choice of running mate, so the nominee will have a sidekick for longer.
However: the Republicans have to worry about their momentum sagging when they have their big party four months before the election. By the time the Democrats have their convention, the Republican Convention will be a distant memory. Also, if the Democratic race is still going in July, people won’t care as much about the Republican Conference.
Change 2: A More Jam-Packed Primary Season
An earlier convention combined with penalties for going before March 1st, except for the first four states, and a requirement for states to hold their contest by mid-May mean that once the voting starts, the Republicans will have a nominee relatively quickly.
What does it mean: momentum will be key. A candidate that can string together a few victories in a row has a very good chance of emerging as the nominee. Playing the long game means making it to the end of March. To be the Republican nominee for President, you have to peak at the right time.
Change 3: Mandatory proportional voting for every state through the first half of March
States can give out their delegates proportionately, based on the votes, or winner-take-all. By mandating that the first cluster of states goes proportional, the RNC makes it harder for someone to run away with the nomination in the early stages.
What does it all mean?
It means that the Republicans just made it more likely that they will nominate a crazy person. The crazies in the Republican party burn bright and quickly in nominating contests. Last year, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich each had bursts of momentum before eventually Rick Santorum became the chosen challenger to Mitt Romney. The long contest allowed Romney to hang back and launch a targeted ad blitz against specific challengers when they got too close. In a more compressed contest, a candidate just needs a well-timed good month to win.
Mitt Romney has complained that last year’s drawn out nominating contest hurt him against Barack Obama, and it did, but had he played by the 2016 rules, it’s possible that Obama’s opponent would be Rick “contraception is not okay” Santorum.